A happy pupil is not always a pupil who is learning at a deeper level. We as teachers know this, that the element of stretch and challenge administered in high quality classrooms around the world might not be the aspect of schooling pupils rush home to laud to their parents about, but it has meaning and relevance and ultimately, a positive impact. The recent approach in UK schools towards combating the state of pupil mental health and happiness does stem from an important place as the article in the most recent TES depicts; my concern as a school leader is the perception of school and learning being one of pressure and burden rather than opportunity.
For me my role as an educator and then subsequently a leader has been clear; It’s all about relinquishing pressure at every strata of a school system. Schools are unbelievably complex entities and involve a vast array of components, all of which need maintenance and care to keep them working, maybe not perfectly, but definitely so they are helping one another. We are there to shield the pressure, and through osmosis, allow our pupils to learn the relevant coping mechanisms to become well rounded learners and members of society .
Chair of Governors shoulders the external pressure of MATs et al
The Head then looks to share the pressure through system leadership with the senior leadership team, emphasising the importance they all bring to the school
The SLT team then shield any undue pressure from the middle leadership team, who we all know are the mitochondria, the powerhouse of the school, driving new ideas and concepts in learning.
The teachers then make sure that no undue pressure is translated to the pupils, that they are challenged, but do not, in a fight or flight situation, crumble and not perform to the levels we know they can.
To me this is obvious, but this is not what is always exhibited to the wider world when we talk about teaching, learning, assessment and outcomes.
The level of Pupil’s anxiety being perpetuated in the media towards external testing can sometimes be there to distract from the actual meaning and value of summative assessment. Exams, tests, assessments, they are there to present pupils and staff with opportunities to celebrate the successes in learning. Nothing worth having is easy, and a test is there to test. If school leaders ensure that they are not over emphasising the issues around exams and testing, (SATS debacles, wrong GCSE questions, lateness of specs etc.), and model that way to cope with change, external accountability and challenge, the pupil’s outcomes and maybe even their happiness will exponentially increase.
Rather that then have to employ a Head of Wellbeing…..